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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Grande Serenade No. 2 - a potpourri for piano, violin, guitar, clarinet and bassoon in C major, Op. 66 (1814-15) [19:33]
Potpourri, for Piano and Guitar in G major, Op. 53 (1810-11) [11:00]
Grande Serenade No. 1 - a potpourri for piano, violin, guitar, clarinet and bassoon in G major, Op. 63 (1814-15) [19:00]
Consortium Classicum: Dieter Klöcker, clarinet; Helman Jung, bassoon; Andreas Krecher, violin; Sonja Prunnbauer, guitar; Thomas Duis, piano
rec. Furstliche Reitbahn, Bad Arolsen, Germany, 2-4 November 2004. DDD
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The German record company Dabringhaus und Grimm must be one of my favourite independent labels. I feel energised by their fascinating and adventurous choice of repertoire. This imaginative and enthralling release of three rare chamber works by Hummel splendidly maintains the company’s tradition.

There can be no other composer who had been surrounded by as much great musical talent as Hummel. Mozart took the young Hummel into his home for music tuition and later received instruction from the luminaries: Clementi, Albrechtsberger, Haydn and Salieri. He became acquainted with Beethoven who was also to study with Haydn and Albrechtsberger. Hummel had the best possible classical teachers, and became an eminent and brilliant concert pianist, undertaking an extensive concert tour of Europe and Russia as well as composing a wide variety of works. He was the last major representative of the Viennese Classical School and the final remnant of the classical tradition before the Romantic age blossomed.

In 1804, Hummel was employed by the Esterházy family at the Eisenstadt Court as Konzertmeister, taking over from Haydn, who was now in retirement in Vienna. The appointment was not without conflict and tension being summarily dismissed following a chaotic episode on Christmas Day 1808. and was reinstated when the Prince relented. Following frequent neglect of his duties Hummel resigned his post with the Esterhazys in 1811 and for the last time returned to Vienna, where he lived as a teacher and concert player. From 1816, he served as Kapellmeister at the Stuttgart Court and in 1819 was appointed Grand-Ducal Kapellmeister at the Weimar Court.

The three scores featured here are amongst those published several times owing to their immense popularity in private recitals. They created a sensation at evening festivities in Vienna’s imperial gardens. They contain a plethora of quotations of popular themes from the major operas of the day, from composers such as Mozart; Weigl; Cherubini; Grétry; Boieldieu; Spontini and Paisiello. In fact, the Potpourris could be described as classical-era versions of ‘Top of the Pops’.

In the booklet, Dieter Klöcker describes these works as, "middle-class musical amusements"; they were intended for private performance in the homes of the bourgeoisie, where the performers themselves often constituted the audience. It is very possible that, in the manner of a parlour game, the audiences may have amused themselves by trying to guess the title of the opera that the themes came from and the identities of their respective composers. These musical circles were similar to those that would soon gather around Schubert, in the same city, known as Schubertiades.

The Potpourri, for Piano and Guitar, Op. 53 contains themes from popular operas by Grétry, Boieldieu, Spontini, Paisiello and Mozart’s, Don Giovanni. The Grande Serenade No. 1 follows a similar format to the Op. 53 work. Hummel here draws on operas by Weigl, Cherubini, Spontini and three by Mozart: The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Three virtuosic variations on a theme by Cherubini are provided, firstly for the guitarist, secondly for the violinist and lastly for the piano. The Grande Serenade No. 2 Op. 66 is similar in character to its contemporaneous sister-work Op. 63. However, the score to Op. 66 also contains stage directions which involve the players, with the exception of the piano, moving themselves from their original positions and repositioning to new locations on the stage. It seems possible that dancing and acting would also be taking place on the stage. The MD&G sound engineers have attempted to make these stage movements audible on this recording. Hummel borrows themes from operas composed by Boieldieu, Cherubini, Nadermann and Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and The Magic Flute.

Consortium Classicum were founded in the early nineteen-sixties by the eminent clarinettist Dieter Klöcker. They not only perform the obvious standard repertory, but are also determined to rediscover and re-establish works that have fallen into the wilderness. The ensemble members are all soloists, professors from music academies and leaders from top-class orchestras.

Performances are delivered with considerable aplomb. This is music in a lighter vein than one generally comes across on these review pages, however, for sheer craftsmanship and immense variety of melodic content, the scores should not be underestimated. This is music that has the sheer ability to provide substantial pleasure. Consortium Classicum are too professional to treat this music with an attitude of lesser respect than they give to more serious music. There is a real sense of an authentic Classical style in their articulation and variety of tone colours. The Ensemble’s natural musical instincts shine pleasantly and confidently through to make a most compelling, rewarding and invigorating experience.

A superbly played disc of music in a lighter vein provides a refreshing change. Recommended.

Michael Cookson



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